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Former Stortford pub landlord must pay £11,000 after starting fire which threatened 3 lives

The former Boar's Head pub in Windhill Pic: Vikki Lince (8336401)
The former Boar's Head pub in Windhill Pic: Vikki Lince (8336401)

A former Bishop’s Stortford publican has been ordered by a court to pay more than £11,000 after lighting a fire and endangering three people in the pub, which did not have a working smoke alarm.

Thomas Melody, 65, got the fire going downstairs at the historic former Boar’s Head – now the Gourmet Turk restaurant – and then left the Windhill premises while there were residents in the accommodation upstairs.

They managed to escape to safety before firefighters put out the flames and prevented them from spreading upstairs.

Hertfordshire's chief fire officer said the occupants were "extremely fortunate" not to be injured or even killed.

Melody had been directed by fire safety officers well over a year before the March 2016 incident to install a fire alarm – but when firefighters arrived at the pub, they found the alarm had been disabled and fire doors were not working properly.

At Wood Green Crown Court in London last Thursday (April 4), Melody pleaded guilty to contravening Article 8 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, his duty to take appropriate fire precautions.

He was fined £1,000 and was ordered to pay £10,000 costs to Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS).

The court heard that he appeared to have treated fire safety officers with “a measure of disdain and possibly arrogance” when they advised him to install a working fire alarm and doors during their routine visits.

Crews who attended the subsequent fire reported that no alarm was sounding when they arrived and it was later identified that the fire alarm panel had no power. Its fuse had also been removed.

Melody’s defence lawyer said that his client was “highly ashamed” of his actions and had apologised to the residents who were living at the pub at the time of the fire.

In sentencing, Judge John Dodd QC told him: “I have to deal with you for an offence that does not come often before this court.

“It seems... that you had warning shots fired across your bows in 2014-15 when fire officers visited. It is unfortunate that you seem to have treated those public servants with a measure of disdain and possibly arrogance as they pointed out your duties.

“Fire officers found the fire alarm had been disabled and fire doors were not working properly. That is why you appear before the criminal courts to plead guilty to a criminal offence which mercifully had no impact on human life.

“The message must go out that the law is there to be observed for very good reason.”

As well as the fine and costs, Melody, of Hackney Road, London, was ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge. He incurred his own legal expenses, which the judge described as being of “significant financial cost”.

Darryl Keen, HFRS’s chief fire officer and community protection director, said: “The occupants above the pub were extremely fortunate to escape injury or even death in the absence of automatic fire detection on the premises.

“It was only the prompt deployment and actions of the firefighting crews that prevented the fire from spreading upstairs.

"We hope this case will serve as a warning to other businesses to ensure they have full working fire protection measures in place to prevent lives being endangered.”

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